nypsy: I'm sorry about the (yet again) delay. Things have been a little tough this week—my grandfather was in the hospital over the weekend, and it was looking really bad for awhile. Thankfully, he's doing great now. I hope it's okay that it's a little late; and also that this fic meets your original fluff request for Ishida/Orihime (I'll have to give you a rain-check on the citrus, lol…)
Recipe For Love:
When Orihime calls and invites him over for dinner that Friday night, Ishida experiences two emotions. The first one is joy, because it means they're moving another step forward in this funny little relationship of theirs, ever since he finally worked up the nerve to ask her out three and a half months ago.
The second one is all-consuming terror, because when it comes to food, Orihime is infamous amongst their group of friends. She can't cook to save her life—or his, Ishida thinks, even as he laughs and agrees to come over on Friday.
"You're screwed," Renji tells him gleefully the following day at lunch, in between gulps of his soda. "Why the hell did you say yes?"
"Because she's my girlfriend," Ishida snaps, ignoring the urge he (still) has to giggle and pump his fist triumphantly like a total dork, whenever it's mentioned that he and Orihime are now officially dating. "It'd be rude if I said no."
"It's asking for trouble if you turn down a woman's cooking," Yumichika says wisely, joining the conversation. "She's sharing a part of herself with you. Saying no means technically means you're rejecting a part of her."
Nobody bothers asking Yumichika about his random burst of insight into the female psyche. Across their small lunch circle, Ichigo takes a bite of his sandwich and frowns.
"I think it's great she asked you over," he says, in a rare moment of kindness that Ishida finds rather surprising. "And her cooking can't be that bad," Ichigo continues skeptically, "you're exaggerating." He directs this at Renji, who keeps cackling and waggling his eyebrows deviously at Ishida—who in turns, finds him entertaining the increasingly appealing idea of "accidentally" shooting Renji with his bow the next time they end up in a fight together.
"You wanna bet?" Renji demands through a mouthful of food, and points to the other side of the roof, where the girls are sitting and eating together. "Check out what she's got for today."
Ishida, Ichigo, and the rest of the boys' heads swivel accordingly, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of Orihime's bento box. It's hard to tell at this distance, but she appears to be munching on pickled radishes, dunked in a mustard and maple syrup sauce.
Ishida represses a shudder, as behind him Renji lets out a series of loud, obnoxious gagging noises. Crap. Renji's right. He's screwed.
On the other side of the roof, Orihime glances up from her lunch and notices them staring. Ishida blushes at getting caught, but she only laughs and waves, her long hair fluttering in the breeze. In spite of himself, Ishida waves back, ignoring the teasing remarks of the other guys, as well as Renji's continued gagging (eventually silenced by Ichigo's fist in his face), and the sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. He has to be strong, he tells himself over and over again. He'll endure anything for Orihime. He's protected and fought for her against all kinds of enemies; her cooking can't be any worse than a hollow, or freaking Szayel…right?
Four days later, though, standing in front of her house in an uncomfortable, button-down shirt he made yesterday and clutching a bouquet of flowers in one hand, Ishida realizes he can't do this. Like, physically can't do this. He's always had a nervous stomach; it used to cause his grandfather all kinds of trouble when he was a kid, never knowing what to feed Ishida, and Ishida in turn constantly terrified that whatever he was about to put in his mouth might result in anything from a fever to an all-night vomiting session. And considering that his stomach is already a wreck between his excitement and steadily mounting fear, Ishida thinks he might not even be able to choke his way through the appetizer.
Idiot, he thinks furiously at himself, the flowers quivering in his grip. I'm an idiot. I should have taken her out to dinner somewhere instead—I should have thought of this in the first place, and then I wouldn't be stuck in this damn situation, and—
The door swings open, and Ishida plasters what feels like a fantastically stupid grin on his face. It fades quickly, though, as he looks Orihime up and down in amazement. She smiles shyly and tucks a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
"Do you like it?"
The dress she's wearing is simple but elegant, hugging her waist, before fanning out into a flowing skirt that reaches just below her knees. It's a soft green color, a gentle contrast to her hair, which is pulled back in a loose bun. The delicate gold necklace he gave her after their fourth date circles her neck
Just when Ishida thinks he's got everything under control, Orihime always comes and takes his breath away.
"You look beautiful," he whispers, and then clears his throat, blushing. "These are for you," he says, trying to sound a little more confident, and hands her the flowers.
Orihime accepts them with a delighted laugh.
"Thank you so much, Ishida-ku—I mean…I mean, Uryuu."
They share another smile, fidgeting and giggling awkwardly until Ishida feels perfectly ridiculous, and Orihime ushers him inside. She's decorated her apartment especially for this evening—for him, Ishida realizes, as he takes in the displays of carefully folded origami flowers placed on every available surface. The lights are turned down low; a card table has been dragged to the center of her living room, cleverly disguised by a dark red tablecloth and a pair of mismatched candlesticks placed at its center.
Orihime disappears briefly into the kitchen with the flowers he gave her, re-emerging with two glasses and what looks like a wine bottle. "Sparkling cider," she explains sheepishly when Ishida raises an eyebrow, and they both laugh again as she pours their drinks. When she's finished, Ishida raises his glass—just like how he's seen them do it in the movies—in cheers.
"Here's to you," he says, feeling incredibly shy and a little stupid, but Orihime giggles and nods, making it better like she always does.
"To us," she murmurs, and they clink their glasses and both drink. Ishida nearly drains his, but Orihime only takes a small gulp and then sets it down on the table. "Have a seat, please," she says, hurrying into the kitchen. "I'll be back in a minute!"
Ishida takes slow sips of his remaining cider and settles himself into one of the chairs placed at the small table. His nerves about the dinner itself are still running pretty high, but he's starting to calm down a little, as a slow, soothing warmth spreads through him. It's incredible that she's doing all this for him; she's incredible, Ishida corrects himself, and can't help another smile as he surveys her apartment again. He has no idea what he did to get so lucky, to have a girlfriend like Orihime, but he offers a silent prayer of thanks to whoever may have blessed him.
The kitchen door swings open, and Orihime appears, wearing a pair of neon pink oven mitts that clash horribly with her dress and carrying two covered plates.
"If it's all right," she begins cheerfully, "I thought I'd try something new! Tatsuki-chan lent me a cookbook, so the whole meal's going to be Italian!" She sets the plates down on the table and peeks quickly under one of the covers. "Or close to it," Orihime admits, and then whips off both covers with a flourish, revealing what Ishida thinks is supposed to be salad, but looks more like a few shreds of damp lettuce buried beneath a mountain of assorted vegetables. "Ta-da!"
Ishida takes his plate with a grateful enthusiasm that he doesn't entirely fake, mentally and emotionally bracing himself for the meal he's about to endure. At least it could be worse, he admits to himself, about to lift a forkful of eggplant to his mouth when Orihime lets out a horrified squeak.
"I forgot the dressing!" She retrieves a bowl containing a murky brown liquid that smells suspiciously like a combination of miso and chocolate syrup. Ishida stares into its swirling, unknown depths, fighting the urge to retch.
"I made it myself," Orihime announces proudly, and pours about half the bowl onto his salad.
"I can tell," Ishida replies, and makes sure to keep smiling—otherwise he might very well burst into tears. Tonight is going to be a very long night.
Dinner progressively goes downhill from there. Orihime's soup tastes like boiled gravy, subtly flavored with chili powder, complete with an entire sprig of burnt parsley floating on its surface.
"I had to improvise on some of the ingredients," Orihime explains, as she enthusiastically slurps down a second bowl of soup. "I've never made Italian before, so I didn't know I had to buy certain types of food. I hope that's okay."
Ishida nods, too afraid of might happen if he opens his mouth to respond.
The main course is spaghetti: half of it's overcooked, the noodles mushing into a thick paste the instant he places them in his mouth. The other half is undercooked, so chewy that even the copious amounts of tomato and meat sauce (it doesn't taste like any tomato he's ever had before, and the meat looks more like chunks of tofu) he pours onto his plate doesn't help. At one point, he nearly breaks a tooth on a particularly gristly noodle, and Ishida has to cover for his choking with several gulps of sparkling cider.
"Delicious," he rasps, and Orihime claps her hands, positively beaming.
Twenty minutes later, as Orihime clears away the empty plates (because yes, dammit, he's so in love he'll do just about anything for her, including polishing off the worst spaghetti he may ever have in his entire life, and still asking for seconds), Ishida quickly does the math in his head. There should only be one more dish after this, he thinks, with a surge of relief. All he has to do at this point is make it through dessert; although given the way his stomach is churning wildly in protest, this might prove more difficult that he's making it out to be.
"And for the grand finale—chocolate cake!" Orihime says, reappearing with two plates, each bearing an enormous slice of cake covered in frosting and whipped cream. It looks good and smells even better; Ishida is startled to find his mouth watering as she sets the cake down in front of him, along with a tall glass of milk.
"I hope you like it," she adds nervously, her dress rustling as she sits down again, playing with her fork. "It's…it's my brother's recipe. I mean, he used to make it for me. When I was a little girl."
Ishida's eyes go wide, unsure of how to respond. He knows how much Orihime's brother means to her, and he's deeply moved that she's chosen to share this with him. Ishida reaches across the table to take her hand.
"I'm sure it's wonderful," he says, and helps himself to a huge bite.
It's not. Long story short: there are eggshells. Possibly more than there is actual cake, but he cleans his entire plate and swallows hard around the ragged shell pieces caught in his throat.
Much as he would like to claim otherwise, Ishida is not made of steel like Ichigo sometimes seems to be; he's pretty sure permanent damage has been done to his internal organs, and he will no doubt have to stay home for the remainder of the weekend (and part of school next week) due to a case of severe food poisoning. Not to mention there's a good chance this meal has taken several years off the end of his life.
But as he finds himself curled up on the couch with Orihime later, after the dishes have been cleaned and put away; as she leans against his chest, and he folds his arms around her, holding her close; as she whispers in his ear, "I love you, Uryuu", and kisses his cheek…
Ishida knows it's all worth it.
I was aiming for ridiculously adorable with this one, lol, but you guys will have to let me know. It's based off a poem I once wrote, about a guy who loves a girl so much that he'll never tell her she's an absolutely wretched cook. And then nypsy requested fluff, and the idea immediately flew into my head, so I turned it into a multipage story. I hope y'all enjoyed it. Please let me know what you think!